When all milks are not equal
I HAVE eaten deep fried grasshoppers in Thailand, unspecified sphincter soup in Vietnam and a tenderised horse steak in Italy.
At Woree Primary School (awarded best state school in Queensland this year, by the way) an old aunty once brought in a container of cubed dugong meat for us to try during NAIDOC Week.
Chicken feet, ox tongue, camel jerky, crocodile burgers, emu snags and more wallaby than you could poke a stick at – and apart from the floating sphincters, they were all bloody delicious.
So why have I never drunk pig’s milk?
That strange question was posed to me by an even stranger woman, and not having a decent answer has grated something fierce on my nerves.
“They’re hard to catch,” I theorised.
“The squeal that groping a piggy teat elicits is just too much for a milkmaid’s ears to handle.
“Leave me be, you’re clearly unhinged.” Truth be told, I had no idea. As I am soon to marry the aforementioned deranged woman, however, it was incumbent upon me to open up some lines of inquiry. Here’s the upside. Pig’s milk is a great source of energy with a fat content of about 8.5 per cent compared to cows’ pathetic 3.9 per cent offering.
Apparently it has a very gamy taste – gamier by half than goat’s milk, which is an acquired flavour in itself.
Nutrient-rich and boasting similar lactose and water content to its bovine brethren, at first blush things bode pretty dang well for swilling down a long glass of piggy boob juice.
Unfortunately there are some inescapable obstacles to filling a bucket with squealer secretions.
Swine only produce about 5.9 litres of milk per day, compared to almost 30 litres for a dairy cow.
Unlike cattle, porkers cannot become pregnant while they are lactating, so using them purely for fluid production is not an especially economical prospect for farmers.
Their bosoms only fire off liquid for about 15 seconds at a time, whereas Buttercup can keep on keeping on for 10 minutes straight.
And pigs are, quite likely, none too fond of having their nipples yanked.
That has not stopped Dutch pig farmer Erik Stegink from trying.
His property, Piggy Palace, achieved YouTube fame after he installed a slippery slide that he bought from an old theme park for his porkers.
The colourful character has also started milking his pigs to create cheese.
There are also mentions on the internet of a farmer in southern Tuscany producing a closely guarded “porcorino” cheese, but it sounds like little more than a clever wives’ tale.
Moose cheese, on the other hand, is a genuine article.
Sweden’s Elk House farm is touted as the only producer of the $1400/kg delicacy, knocking out about 300kg of cheese a year from its three milk-producing moose.
Donkey’s dairy is a bona fide cottage industry, and has been for thousands of years.
Cleopatra was said to take daily baths in donkey milk to keep her skin youthful and taut, and Pope Francis revealed he regularly drank the substance as a boy growing up in Argentina.
Malady-afflicted poet Alexander Pope also partook of the elixir for health reasons, writing in a 1717 letter: “I also drink asses’ milk, upon which I will make no jokes tho’ it be a fertile subject.”
It was so popular that artificial versions were also concocted – a 19th century “most excellent recipe for Mock Asses Milk” guides readers to combine barley, water, hartshorn shavings, eringo root and snails to fashion an adequate substitute when times were lean.
And yet, here we are at the sharp end of 2018 and I have never drunk pig’s milk.
Sure, they have 14 nipples, but in the words of Ben Stiller in the classic comedy film Meet the Fockers: “Oh yeah, you can milk anything with nipples.”
Even a cat.
BOTTOMS UP: Today’s Karl Stefanovic enjoys a glass of milk. Picture: SAM RUTTYN